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The Dodgers enter 2016 looking for their fourth straight division title, and hopefully, a deep playoff run. Their success this year will not be based on any one particular player or decision made, but instead, by a combination of various factors. Nevertheless, it seems as though the team’s success could hinge on how a few key players perform this year.

There can only be so many Clayton Kershaw’s and Adrian Gonzalez’s on a team. Those consistent players who you know what to expect from, year in and year out. Here, we look at those other kind of players, who you might not know exactly what you’re going to get from. The ones that must step up if the team plans to have any type of success this year. These are the guys that could have a significant role in determining how the Dodgers season will end up. Many like to call these type of players “X-factors.”

Here are five players (or positions/roles) that may be this year’s X-factors:


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Scott Kazmir / Kenta Maeda Combo:

Losing Zack Greinke was probably the biggest blow the Dodgers took this off-season. And they couldn’t replace him with any one guy, so the front office decided to go with more overall depth in the rotation. And while depth is great, the fact remains that two pitchers can’t pitch together at one time. Only one of these guys will be taking the mound instead of Greinke every 5th day.

No one expects either Kazmir or Maeda to fill the shoes of Greinke, especially those shoes from last season, where Zack had a career year. Still, both will need to pitch fairly well, and fill the roles that the Dodgers signed them to fill. Can Kazmir stay healthy all year? If so, can he pitch with some of the other #2’s in the division, like Johnny Cueto and Shelby Miller? How will Maeda’s skills transfer from Japan? How durable will he be?

These are key questions that will be answered during the course of the season, and could play a big role in determining how the Dodgers will do in 2016. A productive year from both Kamir and Maeda could help the team go a long way. If they have poor years, however, the Dodgers will be facing an uphill battle to be competitive.

Yasiel Puig:

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

When Puig came up to the Dodgers in the middle of the 2013 season, he took the league by storm. He showcased that 5-tool skill-set that teams rarely see in a player. At only 22, the sky was the limit. He had a decent 2014, although he struggled down the stretch, especially in the playoffs, where he was eventually benched. Then came last season, where Puig dealt with injuries and only played 79 games. He finished with his worse statistical year, and left many wondering if the same young player they saw in 2013 was just an anomaly. His declining numbers, coupled with his off-field issues, had some believing the Dodgers could try to move their young star in the off-season. And there was no shortage of trade rumors.

Whether the Dodgers ever actually intended to, or even entertained the possibility of trading Puig, we’ll probably never know. But it appears they have doubled-down on their faith in him, and believe that he can indeed be a difference-maker in the lineup.

Undoubtedly, he has the potential. But entering his 4th year, Puig will need to start turning that potential into results. No longer can excuses be made for costly mental errors on the field. No longer can he have off-field issues that can be a distraction to the team. And no longer can he continue to bat .255. Puig needs to be a presence in the lineup, and if he does, the Dodgers offense could see a significant boost. If he can’t, and struggles like last year, they could be in for a long season.

Joc Pederson:

It’s hard to put too much pressure on a rookie. I’m not sure the same applies for a sophomore though, which is why Joc Pederson will need to find a way to make some needed improvements to his offensive game this year. A good first half of the year for Pederson in 2015 was completely overshadowed by a very poor 2nd half, as he finished the season hitting .210, with 170 strikeouts.

Jon SooHoo-Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo-Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers don’t need Pederson to be a super-star right now, although many still think he has the ability to develop into one. I’m sure the team would be perfectly content for him to cut down on his strikeouts, and perhaps raise his average a bit. He already gets on base at a good rate, hits for some power, and plays great defense. This spring, Pederson is tinkering with changes to his swing and batting stance, which may be the small adjustments needed to refine his offensive game.

If Joc can resemble the player he showed to be in the first half of last year, the Dodgers could be a much improved offensive team. But if his struggles continue this season, it could be a significant hindrance, not only to his development, but also the Dodgers chances to put runs on the scoreboard consistently.

KEEP READING: What Impact Might The Bullpen Have? Dave Roberts?
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About The Author

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.

7 Responses

  1. Tmaxster

    Great analysis Brian. The keys are definitely Puig and Pederson offensively. The line up is the same as last year with the addition of Seager which we are hoping is a help on Offense and that he can learn on defense. Most of Dodger Nation is hoping for a Guerrero trade to an AL team that can make better use of his good bat substandard field equation. That could also free up a spot for a Barnes or Culberson on the roster.
    The other guys that will determine at least success at the start of the year are Hatcher, Garcia and Kazmir. Those three are my x-factors in the pitching group. I have read that Kazmir has lost velocity down to the mid 80’s which is what happened last time he was driven out of the Major Leagues. Friedman stated they were not concerned about it which makes him either a liar or an idiot… We do not know which Hatcher we get first half or second half and he has not looked sharp and Garcia is brilliant and then throws a flat pitch in the middle of the plate to someone and it gets hit out to the parking lot… 
    I am very upset that Time Warner has decided not to televise the Spring Dodger Games and that the Dodgers have said NOTHING.

    Reply
  2. BCRobitaille

    Spot on Tmaxster. I’m highly skeptical of the Kazmir and Blanton signings, especially Kazmir since he’s supposed to be our #2 guy. I really hope I’m proven wrong but i don’t think he was a good signing. I think the bullpen will improve. Puig and Joc are anyones guess.

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  3. Robert Hamilton

    Tmaxster TM I agree that  if any pitcher who’ s fast ball does not  top off at near 97 mph loses velocity and you’re not concerned, someone needs his head  examined. How can he say that. Maybe cause he won’t admit to a boo boo. Culberson is good and versatile, but I hope Barnes sticks. Because he can handle the stick. AJ scares me when he’s at bat with men in front of him with one out or less, because he hits into tailor made double plays.

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